Military deal makes Australia complicit in Palestine’s oppression

September 5, 2019
An Israeli government-owned military company has joined forces with an Australian firm to produce precision-guided missiles which Australia is also buying.

An Israeli government-owned military company has joined forces with an Australian firm to produce precision-guided missiles and other equipment for Australia’s military. Supporters of Palestinian rights and anti-war activists must seek to break this contract.

Rafael Advanced Defence Systems was formed in 1948, the year that the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians to make room for Israel took place. Since then, it has gone on to develop and manufacture a variety of weapons used against Palestinians.

The website of the Israeli government-owned company states: “Rafael applies vast experience and ingenuity in creating unique technological capabilities and specialised components and subsystems, such as rocket motors, warheads and pyrotechnics.”

In recent years, Rafael has partnered with Raytheon, a huge United States-based weapons and cyber security company that specialises in precision weapons, electronic warfare and missile defence.

Together they developed David’s Sling, which is comprised of a multi-pulse Stunner missile and designed for use in Israel to destroy rockets and short-range ballistic missiles. Raytheon’s website states “the David’s Sling System forms a crucial element of Israel’s multi-tier layered missile defence architecture.”

The two companies jointly worked on Israel’s Iron Dome Weapon System.

Rafael also developed the Popeye air-to-ground missile and the Protector USV, an unmanned, autonomous naval combat system.

Last year, Rafael announced a joint venture with Australian military and engineering company Varley Group, which is based in Newcastle, NSW,  to “create a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Australia for production and support of Rafael's fifth generation Spike LR2 anti-tank guided missiles.”

Spike LR2s will arm Rheinmetall’s Boxer combat reconnaissance vehicles (CRV) after the German company won a $5.2 billion tender to build 211 of the vehicles in Queensland for the Australian military.

Varley Group’s website states that the firm “is one of Australia's oldest and most advanced engineering and manufacturing companies”.

An August 10 Newcastle Herald article explains the company created Varley Shelters in the 1980’s “to fulfill the company’s initial inroad into the Defence market sector.” 

The only mention on Varley Group’s website of its joint venture with Rafael is buried in a March 6 blog post, on the occasion of the Australian International Airshow and Aerospace and Defence Exposition: “Varley made its mark being part of the Defence NSW stand, F-35 Expo Chalet with Lockheed Martin, also CTSi (Varley USA) on the Maryland USA stand and VRA (Varley Rafael Australia) exhibiting with Rafael.”

Regarding the joint venture, former defence minister Christopher Pyne said on August 22 last year: “Varley Rafael Australia will create around 70 new jobs here in Australia as Rafael transfers their expertise to Australia.

“Rafael is one of Israel’s largest defence companies, with a global footprint and around 7,500 employees in Israel. They manufacture some of the world’s leading weapon systems, including the Spike LR2 anti-tank guided missile.”

An August 24, 2018, article in Australian Defence Magazine, reported Pyne as saying: “This partnership between one of Australia’s best defence companies and a global success story like Rafael is another success story for Australian industry.”

He also noted: “The venture follows my visit to Israel in July [last] year where I discussed this important partnership with Rafael’s leadership and participated in the inaugural Australia-Israel Defence Industry Cooperation Joint Working Group.”

According to the Department of Defence, the aim of the Joint Working Group is to “strengthen ties between Australia and Israel, explore defence industry and innovation opportunities, identify export opportunities, and support [Australian] industries to cooperate in the development of innovative technologies for shared capability challenges.”

While the Australian media has provided little to no coverage of this joint venture, Chinese website Xinhua reported on August 22 last year: “Rafael did not disclose the exact amount of the deal [with Varley] but it is estimated at tens of millions of US dollars. 

“The precision-guided Spike missiles, which are widely used by the Israel Defense Forces and many other armies around the world, can be launched from a variety of ground, air, sea and naval platforms for ranges of up to 30 km…

“Australia is the second country after Israel itself to purchase Rafael's new model [the Spike LR2]…

“The sale of the missiles is part of an industrial partnership agreement signed between Rafael and Australia's engineering and manufacturing company Varley to establish joint production lines to supply Spike and other systems to the Australian army.

“Rafael will also supply the Australian army with the Wind Coat system for protecting tanks and armoured personnel carriers, and the Iron Dome system that intercepts and destroys short-range rockets.”

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel has sought to highlight the plight of the Palestinian people by targeting companies complicit in human rights abuses in Palestine.

Rafael is one such company. Today, it is working to provide Australia’s military with missiles that will mostly likely be used in the next unnecessary and unjust war that the United States drags the country into.

BDS supporters and peace activists need to lobby Minister for Defence Industry Melissa Price and shadow defence minister Richard Marles to stop this joint venture going ahead.

[Mark Govier is a member of Australian Friends of Palestine Association.]

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